Spaceport proposed for Oklahoma

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Three companies are waging a commercial space race as they vie for a $17 million tax credit to build a spaceport at an abandoned Air Force base in western Oklahoma.

The companies presented proposals to the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority on Wednesday to develop a commercial spaceport at the former Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base near Burns Flat in Washita County.

The authority is working with companies that are interested in locating space industries in Oklahoma. The company with the winning proposal will get a tax credit authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature last session.

Spaceflight Unlimited of Oklahoma City has proposed building a spaceport at Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark. The proposed spaceport would employ 350 people with an annual payroll of $69 million, chief executive officer Larry Ortega said.

Spaceflight Unlimited would provide commercial space flights, giving travelers the experience of flying into space or experiencing zero gravity, Ortega said.

The estimated cost to take a flight into space would range from $15,000 to $125,000, depending on the altitude of the flight, he said. The cost to experience zero gravity would be $1,000 to $2,000.

When fully operational, the company could provide five to 10 rides into space each day, said retired Col. Richard A. Searfoss, an astronaut with 939 hours in space.

``When ordinary people begin to fly into space from Oklahoma, we will become a global destination,'' Ortega said.

JP Aerospace, a California company, is also seeking the right to locate a spaceport in Oklahoma.

The company, which is involved in research and development, uses balloons to lift rockets 100,000 feet into space where the rockets then are launched, said Joan Horvath, vice president.

The company operates in an isolated area of Nevada. It would like to move to Clinton- Sherman Industrial Airpark because it is less isolated, Horvath said.

Long range plans for the company would include operating a hotel suspended 100,000 feet in space, she said.

Charles J. Lauer, vice president for business development for Pioneer Rocketplane. said his company would provide space adventure travel, including suborbital flights.